Teachers and resilience
Teaching can be emotionally demanding, stressful and can cause high levels of anxiety or lead to low spirits. School leaders will do everything they can to help you manage any work-related stress by supporting you and cutting down workload; however, you can take action before stress and workload become a larger issue.
Rather than taking a reactive approach, consider a preventative one – this means focussing on developing and maintaining resilience. It is important that, early in your career, you can develop the resilience needed to maintain a healthy work-life balance. We are not born with resilience; however, we can adopt it – this article provides guidance on the different ways you can learn to foster resilience and how this can benefit you and your pupils.
Working with your induction tutor
As an NQT, you will have begun to develop resilience as your confidence in your ability to attain QTS grew. To help grow this resilience, you can work with your induction tutor to:
- Establish realistic expectations of yourself, your role and your responsibilities.
- Set challenging targets for development which will recognise your success.
- Recognise that there will be challenges and understand the reasons for these, establishing a collaborative approach to finding solutions.
- Establish a mutually respectful relationship which challenges and supports you.
- Work together to improve teaching and pupils’ learning.
For additional guidance on working with your induction tutor, read our article here.
Methods for developing resilience
There are many ways that you can develop confidence:
- Preparation – anticipate the challenges of your classes and ensure you are ready for potential situations that could arise and how you might deal with them.
- Body language – presenting yourself confidently can boost your overall sense of self-confidence.
- Be calm and in control – set your expectations as soon as pupils enter your lessons. If, at any point, you feel that you are losing control, just take a moment to relax before calmly trying to regain it.
- Use criticism – constructive feedback can be used as a fuel for change. Try turning negative criticisms into positives instead of dwelling on something that has already happened – this can help build your confidence and improve your practices.
- Realise your potential – take the time to reflect on your practice and identify the things you are doing well. Overcoming negative self-perceptions and recognising your strengths can help you to build a sense of self-worth and gain more confidence in yourself.
Teachers learn best when they feel supported and valued within their school. When your personal relationships are strong, you are likely to feel happier, healthier and more supported. It can be hard to develop relationships, but prioritising time to arrange and attend social events allows you to get to know the people you are working with.
Try to nurture the relationships that you have with your colleagues. If you are struggling, or having a hard week, you can reach out to your co-workers and seek support to help you overcome difficult situations, rather than try to cope with them on your own.
When faced with challenges, resilient people will act purposefully and creatively, looking for multiple solutions to any problem. It is important to take initiative through problem solving, enjoyment and setting limits – in particular, you should think about how you can adapt your practices to reach all pupils and the impact this will have. Evaluate how you think and communicate your emotions; rather than saying “I can’t”, identify your frustration and use it as an opportunity to move forward.
Flexibility is important when it comes to change – many changes will be beyond your control, so the way you respond is essential to maintaining resilience. To be resilient, you need the ability to cope well with change; you will find that you are able to adapt to new practices with little effort. The idea of change can be daunting at first because of the fear of the unknown; however, you can ask yourself “what’s the worst that can happen?”. Think it through carefully and make sure that you understand your role and how the change can help you to progress. If you are finding it hard to cope or manage the stress that might come with change, make sure you seek support from colleagues and senior leaders.
Having a sense of moral purpose and motivations for progressing in teaching can increase your capacity to be emotionally strong and professionally competent. It will also provide you with the resilience to successfully overcome professionally challenging situations.
Think about how you benefit your pupils’ lives and how teaching benefits you. Remember why you wanted to teach in the first place – the ideas you hold about yourself, values and core beliefs create the foundation used to respond to change. Working based on the belief that you are having a positive impact on pupils’ lives, and that you can overcome any challenges you face, will contribute to your daily resilience.
Approaching things positively means that you are better able to learn from mistakes, handle challenges and follow instincts. You should look for opportunities in every challenge that you face. Don’t ignore the problem; instead, understand that setbacks are inevitable and that you have the skills to combat these. Don’t waste time worrying about the things that you can’t control and start thinking about what you can do to make them better.
Try to surround yourself with optimistic people too – if you notice that the people around you are always complaining, consider looking for colleagues who are trying to be, and are, positive about themselves and their jobs.
Be realistic about the goals you set yourself as this can help to keep things in perspective. You cannot expect to be positive all the time; however, you can prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.
For more advice on surviving your NQT year, read our article here. We interviewed two RQTs who shared their top tips to help you tackle your first year as a teacher with less stress.
Brighouse. T et al., (2011) ‘Beyond Survival: Teachers and Resilience’
Day. C., (2012) ‘Resilience leaders, resilience schools’
Gordon. A. L., (2015) ‘Fostering Resilience in Your Teaching Workforce’
Harris. C., (2016) ‘Developing resilience is the only way teachers can defeat the workload avalanche’, <https://www.tes.com/news/developing-resilience-only-way-teachers-can-defeat-workload-avalanche> [Accessed: 24 October 2018]
Herbert-Smith. K., (2018) ‘6 ways to boost your confidence as a teacher’, <https://blog.irisconnect.com/uk/community/blog/5-ways-to-boost-your-confidence-as-a-teacher-1/> [Accessed: 24 October 2018]
We are teachers (2015) ‘Keep That Bounce: 5 Ways to Nurture Your Resilience as a Teacher’, <https://www.weareteachers.com/keep-that-bounce-5-ways-to-nurture-your-resilience-as-a-teacher/> [Accessed: 24 October 2018]